PAPER MAN Movie Review
[Republished from the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival]
Paper Man tells the story of Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) a failed author whose wife, Claire (Lisa Kudrow), a successful surgeon, rents a house in New Jersey in order to help him get over his writer’s block. Along for the ride is Richard’s imaginary friend, Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds), who has been with him since 2nd grade.
Unfortunately, Richard can’t seem to get anything written and the fact that his first novel was a bust doesn’t help either. During one of his outings to town, he meets Abby (Emma Stone) a Long Island teen who feels as lonely as he does. A friendship between the two begins a la “Lost in Translation” which helps both of them deal with their lives and unresolved issues.
Paper Man very much has a typical independent feel to it, which I love. And while the basic storyline is not that original, the elements surrounding it definitely bring it to a new, original level. I thought the whole Captain Excellent element was brilliant and putting Ryan Reynolds in the role in a Superman-like costume and platinum hair just makes it that much more brilliant. Oh and did I mention Captain Excellent also has some sort of slogan, it’s pretty fun.
Unfortunately, during the movie we realize that even Captain Excellent’s slogan can’t seem to inspire Richard for his new book. Even worse, Richard starts going against Captain Excellent’s advice.
I really loved the dynamic between the two characters, because I think the directors/writers (Kieran and Michele Mulroney) were able to make us feel like this relationship had been going on for at least 40 years. And we also see it evolve throughout the movie, as Richard tries to find himself.
Abby is the other person in Richard’s life that challenges him and I have to say that I just loved Emma Stone’s performance in Paper Man. I think that compared to other movies that I have seen her in, she added a new vulnerable layer to her character that was needed and I loved watching every scene she was in.
In the movie, Abby also has her own baggage, and her friendship with Richard will also help her move on to new and better things.
Paper Man is definitely a character study and not everyone will get it or enjoy it, but I really loved it. The actors brought these characters to life and instead of making them one note throughout the whole movie, they gave them dimensions, which allows you to connect to them.
The story also surprised me in the direction that it took. There was one twist that I didn’t see coming, which I won’t spoil for you, but when that happened, it gave Paper Man a new outlook on what had happened before and it made it that much more brilliant.
Overall, Paper Man has a great story, great acting, and great directing. So if you enjoy independent movies, unlikely friendships between two people, and imaginary superheroes in tights, then you might be in for a treat.